FINANCE

Walmart in a funding first

BY Marianne Wilson

Walmart is partnering with Colorado to empower retail workers.

The discount giant announced more than $4 million in support of the Colorado Workforce Development Council (CWDC). It is Walmart’s first grant to a state government to support workforce development and will help provide retail advancement opportunities through training and up-skilling.

The grant will allow the CWDC to partner with local workforce development boards across Colorado to launch 10 new retail sector partnerships. Through each of these public-private partnerships, representatives from workforce boards, economic development and education will work with retail employers in the community to design upskilling and training programs that support career advancement for frontline workers and can be a model for workforce development organizations across the U.S. to follow.

The funding comes at a time when there are estimated five million unfilled jobs in the U.S., but 24 million frontline workers who might be able to fill these jobs if given the opportunity to develop advanced training, according to UpSkill America. By improving the quality of skills training and increasing opportunities for advancement, retail jobs can be a powerful engine for economic mobility.

This support for the CWDC is part of Walmart and the Walmart Foundation’s five-year, $100 million Retail Opportunity Initiative, a philanthropic initiative aimed at making it easier for frontline employees in retail and adjacent sectors to gain new skills and advance in their careers. To date, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have funded more than $80 million in grants designed to increase the economic mobility of retail and related-sector workers.

“Our support of the Colorado Workforce Development Council is a further step in our efforts to strengthen the workforce ecosystem beyond Walmart’s walls through collaboration with public and private sector leaders,” said Julie Gehrki, VP of philanthropy at Walmart.

The CWDC and sector partnerships will aim to train incumbent workers through Walmart’s funding, as well as share best practices for building retail career pathways and upskilling workers through the development of a “how-to” guide that will be shared statewide. The statewide expansion builds on the success of the Denver Retail Sector Partnership, convened by the Denver Office of Economic Development. The industry-led partnership focused on workforce as a key issue in 2016 and 2017 and provided skills training, work experience and paid youth pre-apprenticeships through a previous Walmart grant.

Through the Retail Opportunity Initiative, Walmart also recently announced nearly $4 million in grants to the Foundation for California Community Colleges, Code for America Labs, Inc. and edX.org to help provide workers access to education, training and skills to create innovative pathways for lifelong learning.

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Judge could slow integration of CVS Heath and Aetna

BY CSA Staff

A U.S. District Court judge is concerned over the U.S. Justice Department’s approval of CVS Health’s acquisition of insurance giant Aetna.

Judge Richard Leon said Tuesday he was “less convinced” than the government that the companies had struck a deal that ensured the merger was legal under antitrust law, Reuters reported. He has been asked to sign off on the government’s decision.

To read more, click here.

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Christopher & Banks names chief stores officer; to close 30 to 40 stores

BY Marianne Wilson

Christopher & Banks on Tuesday reported disappointing third quarter amid supply chain problems, and updated its store portfolio analysis.

The women’s apparel retailer also announced it has appointed Carmen Wamre as senior VP, chief stores officer, effective Dec. 10. She brings with her more than 28 years of retail experience, including 19 years as zone VP, Express, where she oversaw operations for 300 plus retail stores.

On a quarterly call with analysts, Christopher & Banks CFO Richard Bundy said the company has nearly completely a deep dive into its real estate portfolio. Based on its findings, the retailer is “rationalizing” its store base and plan to close 30 to 40 stores over the next two and a half years. The closings will start at the end of 2019 as leases expire. (As of Dec. 4, the company operates 461 stores in 45 states.)

Christopher & Banks reported a loss of $8.817 million, or 24 cents per share in the quarter ended Nov. 3, compared to a loss of $1.622, or 5 cents per share, in the year-ago period.   Losses, adjusted for asset impairment costs and severance costs, were 15 cents per share.

Net sales fell 7.3% to $91.3 million in the quarter ended Nov.3, while operating on average 461 stores. This compares to $98.5 million in net sales in the year-ago period, while operating on average 473 stores.

Same-store sales decreased 7.5%. eCommerce sales increased 10.7%.

The retailer said its third quarter results were adversely impacted by the combination of shipment delays and lower planned levels of inventory, which resulted in an average of 17% less inventory on hand than in last year’s third quarter.

“In addition, moving through excess spring/summer merchandise inventory was more challenging than the prior year and created meaningful pressure on our gross margin,” said Keri Jones, president and CEO. “Notably, as newer merchandise arrived in stores, we have been encouraged by the response as these deliveries have been resonating with our customers.”

Jones sounded more positive notes in her statement, saying quarter-to-date, the company is seeing positive comparable sales coupled with gross margin expansion.

“Importantly, the abundance of work we have done over the last eight months, focused on strengthening our merchandising strategy, developing a more impactful marketing approach and enhancing our omni-channel capabilities, are beginning to bear fruit,” she said. “At the same time, we continue to make progress in advancing process improvement initiatives and reducing costs.”

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